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Wednesday, June 19, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Administration Agency Gives Supreme Court Poke in Eye on Military Tests Killing Whales

(CN) - The Obama administration's fisheries agency has given the U.S. Supreme Court a poke in the eye, refusing to allow the Navy to kill whales and dolphins through the use of weapons testing. After the 9th Circuit halted the military use of sonar during exercises near shore, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed last year with broad language dismissing the harm to the whales and elevating the importance of military might.

The decision by the National Marine Fisheries Service in refusing to allow the killing of marine mammals bears a direct correlation to the change in administrations, in that the Navy relied on the environmenatl decisions of the Bush administration to justify the killings.

In the argot of the bureaucracy, the fisheries agency said it would not permit the "taking by mortality" of the marine mammals during miliary exercises. The agency essentially held the Navy to its public pronouncements, where the service says it takes measures to avoid the death of the mammals.

The fisheries agency concluded that therefore it need not approve the killings.

Specifically, the NMFS will not authorize the U.S. Navy's application to incidentally kill marine mammals as the result of weapons testing at the Naval Surface Warfare Center Panama City Division. The Navy's request comes as part of an application under the Marine Mammal Protection Act which allows for the issuance of "Letters of Authorization" from the National Marine Fisheries Service for the incidental take of marine mammals during military readiness activities.

The agency does not authorize the Navy's request for taking by mortality because it believes that with the precautions prescribed in its authorization for taking by less lethal means no marine mammals will be killed by weapons testing in the Warfare Center.

However, the agency approves the Navy's request to perform under water and surface explosions, which may injure dolphins. It also approves the use of sonar and the launch of dummy rockets, which may harass marine mammals in the area.

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